New Orleans Poet Remembers Mari Evans

Remembering Mari Evans – Speak the Truth to the People
By Kysha Brown Robinson

Mari Evans was the word itself, without embellishment or detraction.
I learned that the absence of a smile had its own tone.

Speak the truth to the people
Talk sense to the people
Free them with honesty
Free the people with Love and Courage for their Being
Spare them the fantasy
Fantasy enslaves
A slave is enslaved
Can be enslaved by unwisdom
Can be re-enslaved while in flight from the enemy
Can be enslaved by his brother whom he loves
His brother whom he trusts
His brother with the loud voice
And the unwisdom
Speak the truth to the people

Lesson 2. Intolerance for that which deserves insult can be as elegant as it certain.

It is not necessary to green the heart
Only to identify the enemy
It is not necessary to blow the mind
Only to free the mind
To identify the enemy is to free the mind
A free mind has no need to scream
A free mind is ready for other things

Lesson 3. Be purposeful. The direct arrives first. It does not waste time on waivers or wavering.

To BUILD black schools
To BUILD black children
To BUILD black minds
To BUILD black love
To BUILD black impregnability
To BUILD a strong black nation

Lesson 4. Develop and Execute Strategy. Occupy space on behalf of that which you love and hold dear. Defeat its opposite or its absence by substantiating and defending its presence. Then you are positioned to invite others in. You cannot share a meal or a victory that you don’t possess. You cannot dance on ground you have not taken. Create. Build. Make What Matters. Let detractors and would be destroyers spend their energy countering your brilliance. Let them find their defeat in exhaustion and incompetence. Build. Maintain. Expand.

Speak the truth to the people
Spare them the opium of devil-hate
They need no trips on honky-chants.
Move them instead to a BLACK ONENESS.
A black strength which will defend its own
Needing no cacophony of screams for activation
A black strength which will attack the laws
exposes the lies, disassembles the structure
and ravages the very foundation of evil.

Speak the truth to the people
To identify the enemy is to free the mind
Free the mind of the people
Speak to the mind of the people
Speak Truth.

Lesson 5. Word is power. Truth is power. Own your power.
I love the precision of Mari Evans voice, whether mission or matters closer to home, whispers in our intimate space.

On my wedding day, there was no Bridal Chorus. The church doors were opened
My mother began reciting Mari Evans “Celebration.” My father walked me down the aisle.

…I will bring you a whole person
And you will bring me a whole person
And we will have us
Twice as much of love and everything

Mari Evans gifted us her wholeness as an artist/activist, making contributions as a musician, educator, editor, cultural critic, and writer of poetry, children’s books, theater pieces, and musicals.

Mari Evans
Black Arts Icon
Elegant Rebel
Beautiful Maker of Beautiful Trouble

Kysha Brown Robinson

I Am A Black Woman

I am a black woman
the music of my song
some sweet arpeggio of tears
is written in a minor key
and I
can be heard humming in the night
Can be heard
in the night

I saw my mate leap screaming to the sea
and I / with these hands / cupped the lifebreath
from my issue in the canebrake
I lost Nat’s swinging body in a rain of tears
and heard my son scream all the way from Anzio
for Peace he never knew. . . . I
learned Da Nang and Pork Chop Hill
in anguish
Now my nostrils know the gas
and these trigger tire / d fingers
seek the softness in my warrior’s beard

Am a black woman
tall as a cypress
beyond all definition still
defying place
and time
and circumstance

on me and be


“Speak the Truth to the People” and “Celebration.” I AM A BLACK WOMAN: Poems by Mari Evans, Morrow Paperback Editions, pp. 91-92.

“I Am A Black Woman.” I AM A BLACK WOMAN: Poems by Mari Evans, Morrow Paperback Editions, pp. 11-12.

Mari Evans
“I Am A Black Woman”
A Nation of Poets
National Black Arts Festival, 1990
CD Produced by: Kalamu ya Salaam